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Friday, July 11, 2014

What if?

All good fiction starts with “What if?”  Begin with “What if a human girl fell in love with a vampire?” and Stephenie Meyer creates TWILIGHT.  “What if there were a school for training witches and wizards?” Yep, Harry Potter. The questions begin the creative process.

MAGGIE RISING began one day as I drove past the home office of a local self-professed psychic. I asked myself, “What if a girl who worked as a psychic reader but didn’t believe in the paranormal had an undeniably paranormal experience?”
The more I thought about it, the more I knew I would write Maggie’s story. By the time I finished that book, Maggie was so real I knew she couldn’t stop with only one adventure, so I labeled it Book 1 in the “Maggie Rising Case Files.”

Of course the second question was what experience would introduce Maggie into the paranormal world? Since I was Maggie’s age (17), I’ve seen bulletins and posters asking “Have you seen this child?” Some offer rewards. I always wished I could peer into a crystal ball and find the lost children, not for the reward (I pictured myself graciously refusing the money), but simply to ease the pain of the loved ones. What if that happened to Maggie?

The rest was its own kind of magic, the special kind of madness that novelists all experience. (Yes, I hear voices. They all want me to tell their stories. Yes, I watch scenes play out in my mind; it’s like a movie in my head. Of course I talk to imaginary people. Doesn’t everyone?)

When a murdered girl starts showing up in Maggie’s dreams, Maggie’s certain it’s a nightmare. Then the rival high school’s homecoming queen goes missing and her picture turns up on page 1. From there, it was a matter of talking to our just-retired police chief to find out how the department would deal with a psychic informer. Later I got an escorted tour of the Butte County Jail. Ah, the places fiction can take us!

Maggie’s voice came with her. The more often she visited, the easier it was to hear her lightly funny, slightly snarky tone as in this opening scene:

“So, are you really a psychic?”
The girl at the counter looked like so many others I’d seen since hanging my shingle next to Aunt Betty’s last summer. I wanted to answer, Hey, look: You came here because the sign says Psychic Readings. What do you expect? Instead, I gave her my wisest, most knowing smile while sizing her up.
She was somewhat shorter than my five-feet-nine, but most women are, and she was curvier than I am, especially through her surgically augmented chest. Her blonde wasn’t natural, either, though her roots weren’t as dark as my near-black curls. Even her coloring seemed unnatural, more peaches-and-cream than my rubies-and-ivory, heavy on the cake foundation. The rest was easy: sorority chick; sporting her daddy’s credit card; party girl looking for a thrill and probably trying to figure out whether Jason (or Will or that guy from the frat mixer last night) was The One.
 “You’ve come to discover whether your love is true,” I said in my best impersonation of a movie fortune teller.
The girl’s look of happy surprise told me I was on the right track. “You want to know if your sorority sisters can be trusted,” I went on.
“Wow!” she said. “How did you know I was in a sorority?”
I gave her that all-knowing look again, not mentioning that the Greek letters on her sweatshirt were a pretty loud hint. “You want to see what the future holds for you—career, marriage, or both. You want to know about your future family.”
“Wo-o-o-o-ow,” she said again, drawing it out admiringly. “It’s just like you can read my mind!”
“That is why you’re here,” I answered in my wise persona, while silently thinking Duh, Chick. That’s why people get psychic readings. “The reading will be twenty dollars, please.”

Maggie is one of my fictional offspring now. I sometimes hear sweet-snarky voice commenting on the things and people I come across each day. Oh yeah. Maggie will definitely be back.

MAGGIE RISING is available wherever quality e-books are sold. It will soon appear in paperback as well. Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels. Her lucky 13th, EASTWARD TO ZION, is available now from Covenant Communications. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 23. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves to hear from readers @SusanAylworth or at, You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram. 

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